There are several reasons I prefer to roast beets rather than boil or steam them: for one, roasting is the best method for retaining the bright color and natural sweet flavor of the beets; boiling and steaming leeches more vitamins from the beets; roasting is an easy and foolproof method that doesn’t require keeping an eye on the water level in the pot or steamer; and, best of all, roasting doesn’t make a mess.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 pound beets uniformly-sized (red, golden, Chioggia, or any other variety)
Sprigs of fresh thyme
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Gently scrub the beets under cool running water to remove any dirt from the skins. Pat dry. Place each beet in the center of a square of foil with one sprig of thyme. Drizzle a little olive oil over each beet and roll it around until lightly coated. Sprinkle the beets evenly with a large pinch of salt and a small pinch of pepper. Wrap each beet tightly in the foil. Arrange the beets on a rimmed baking sheet without touching. Roast the beets until tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets. The beets are done when a paring knife easily pierces each beet when inserted into the center. (If the beets are not uniformly sized, remove the smaller beets from the oven when tender and continue to roast the larger beets until done.) Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. (If not using the beets right away, leave them wrapped in the foil and refrigerate for up to 5 days.)
When the beets are cool enough to handle, unwrap them from the foil and discard the thyme. Wearing disposable gloves, use a paring knife to trim the stem and root ends. Using paper towels, rub the skins to remove the peel. At this point, the beets can be cut into slices or wedges and served as a side dish or they can be cooled completely and used in recipes calling for roasted beets.